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Terrorism (Powers of Detention)

Volume 528: debated on Wednesday 18 May 2011

6. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for the Home Department on powers to detain terrorist suspects. (55384)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I are in regular contact with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary regarding this issue. The Government are absolutely clear that reducing the maximum pre-charge detention period to 14 days will strike the right balance between civil liberties and the need to protect the public from the terrorist threat.

I thank the Minister for his reply. David Cairns was a fine colleague and I join all those who have paid tribute to him this morning.

The recent detention of three terrorist suspects in Northern Ireland for periods of 13 and 14 days indicates that the Government are right to bring in arrangements to extend the maximum period of detention beyond 14 days in exceptional circumstances. Given the likely pressures of those circumstances, does the Minister agree that the mechanism for implementing those arrangements needs to be both swift and straightforward?

The Minister does very much agree with what the right hon. Gentleman has just said in his usual responsible manner. The right hon. Gentleman is on the Joint Committee that is scrutinising the draft emergency legislation. I agree with everything he has said and I urge him to make his point very forcefully. The principle is right and we must make certain that, if necessary, we can enforce that principle swiftly whether Parliament is sitting or not.

I welcome the decision by the Secretary of State to revoke the licence of Marian Price. Is he as concerned as I am that the courts would have granted bail to the Old Bailey bomber on charges of support for an illegal organisation? What sort of message do our courts send out if they seem to take a softly, softly approach to confronting dissident republican terrorists?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that justice is a devolved matter. I believe that my right hon. Friend acted extremely swiftly and that he was right to do what he did. The legal process will take its usual course.